If you’re like me, you embrace good defensive football. Don’t get me wrong, having an offense that scores a bunch of points and makes big plays is certainly exciting. I know that everytime an Eagle QB drops back and launches a long bomb I’m breathless with anticipation of the huge play, especially with the likes of DeSean Jackson on the team. But there is nothing I take more pride in than playing fierce defense.
Defense is what gets me fired up, it’s what makes me pound my chest, it’s what makes me feel like I’m a 10 foot tall musclebound superman. When you’re “defending” something, you do it with everything you’ve got. If you’re being attacked you might turn into a crazed maniac in order to defend yourself. Or sometimes you defend by being the aggressor, just like an animal protecting their young. In football, you have to have heart, desire, aggressiveness, fearlessness, and a little crazy in you in order to play good defense.
Many times teams have at least one player that gives their defense an identity. The person that first comes to mind when you think of that defense and gets everyone fired up. He’s usually always an emotional leader and is a playmaker. Let’s go through a few examples of what I mean…
Ravens = Ray Lewis, Ed Reed
Steelers = Troy Polamalu, James Harrison
Cowgirls = Demarcus Ware
49ers = Patrick Willis
Packers = Clay Mathews
Jets = Darrelle Revis, David Harris
Bears = Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs
Vikings = Jared Allen
All of those guys are playmakers and/or emotional leaders that get their teammates fired up. They give their defense an identity and have the ability to dominate a game (and they do). Their defenses are usually ranked towards the top of the league. Who comes to mind when you think of the Eagles defense? Trent Cole? Asante Samuel? Do you think they give the defense an identity? They are good players but they’re not exactly what I’m talking about or looking for.
Samuel is basically a rogue playmaker. What I mean is, he makes plays with his INT’s but has a reputation for doing things his way no matter what the coaches say. He puts the “me” in the word “team”. Cole is a good player and a great person but he’s just not a defensive icon. He also gets worn down and disappears at times and is not a player who comes through in the clutch with a timely sack or big play. Again, don’t get me wrong, I think Cole is a good DE and model player/citizen but he’s not the type of player that can take over a game.
Brian Dawkins is the last guy we had that gave our defense an identity. “Weapon X”, as some called him. In his prime, he was the kind of player that could dominate a game. He made plays in the secondary, at line of scrimmage, and in the offensive backfield. He made receivers think twice about coming over the middle or anywhere near his area of the field. You could see his emotion during the pre-game intros and all throughout the game. He is a legendary player and is arguably the most revered Eagle player of all time.
Before Dawkins (and some during), we had other players that gave us an identity. Jeremiah Trotter, Hugh Douglas, Troy Vincent, Hollis Thomas, and Bill Romanowski come to mind. Going back further we had guys like Reggie White, Jerome Brown, Seth Joyner, Eric Allen, Wes Hopkins…ah, basically the ENTIRE GANG GREEN DEFENSE of the late 80’s to early 90’s! And going way back we had the likes of Bill Bergey, Frank LeMaster, Wayne Robinson, and Chuck Bednarick.
Right now we don’t have “that guy”, the one who is the face of the defense. There is nobody who intimidates opponents. Is there anyone now on the roster, including the new draftees, who can or will be that guy? Before his major knee injury, Stewart Bradley seemed to be an ascending player who could have been that guy but has since taken a step back. I suppose we’ll have to hope that at least one player out of Jaiquawn Jarrett, Casey Mathews, Jamar Chaney, Nate Allen, Moise Fokou, Kurt Coleman, or one of the other guys drafted in the past 2 years forges a new identity for our defense.
While I want someone to step up from the D, I’m not saying that we can’t play good on that side of the ball. It is a team, afterall. They could play good as a unit without 1 standing out from all the others. They could play well enough to get us to the Super Bowl without necessarily having “that guy”. But, will they get back some of the fierceness that has defined some Eagles defenses over the years?
That might not happen until at least 1 player puts the defense on his back and says “We’re going to punch you in the mouth and knock you out cold. Then when you wake up, we’re gonna knock you out again!”.
To see more of what I’m talking about, check out this video of the great BDawk. Who’s gonna fill this role?